Please Keep Class Ranking

The News about discontinuing class rank

On May 7, I received an email from my son’s East Ridge High School with the subject “class rank information session.” The message was to inform that class rank would be discontinued next year.

Here is part of the message:

“As students prepare to be admissions ready by completing college applications, class rank becomes a topic of intense conversation.  Each of the District’s three high schools struggle with class rank and the role it plays in the college admission process.  At several of our schools, the average grade in the building is a B+, resulting in highly successful students ranking in the lower half of their graduating class.  Couple this with the competition that develops between and among students and the three high schools felt it was time for a change in the manner in which student performance is reported out to colleges and universities.  Beginning next year, class rank will not be reported out unless there is an unlikely event in which not doing so puts our students at a disadvantage.

We invite you to attend one of two evening information sessions on this topic. The first will be held at Park High School on May 15 at 6:30 PM in the Lecture Hall, and the second will be held at Woodbury High School on May 22 at 6:30 PM. You will hear the research done by the counseling staff from all three buildings, and have an opportunity to discuss the implementation process. We want to hear from you! Please mark your calendars. We look forward to meeting with you.”

I think all high school students and parents who are on the District 833’s Info To Go email lists received the same information.

Later on Friday, the information was also in the “News from District 833 for May 10.”

My viewpoint and suggestion 

I don’t know how other parents and students feel about this news. Speaking for myself and my family, we are surprised and very disappointed by the decision. I plan to go to the information session to learn more about the reasons behind the decision.

I am against the elimination of class rank. I think competition among students and schools is a good thing. I think high schools should still rank students. But to make a compromise, high schools can make it optional for students to keep the ranking on their transcripts and to report their rankings to colleges.

What is class rank and why is it useful?

Class rank is a measure of how a student’s performance compares to other students in his or her class. It’s used in high schools to compare students’ GPA and their academic achievements.

Class rank can be a productive tool to motivate students to work hard and excel. Some students look at school like a competition and see each test as a contest. For these externally motivated students, class rank is a productive and motivating academic tool. It gives them a goal to work towards and rewards academic achievement.

It drives them to work harder and to take harder classes, instead of the easy way out of high school. Students who take the harder classes and work the hardest will naturally be at the top of their class. Isn’t that what we want students to do – work harder and do better?

A positive effect of the class rank is that it exposes our students to the competitive nature of our world at an early age.

In addition, a high class rank can make a positive impression on a college application. Colleges often use class rank as a factor in college admissions. They take class rank into high consideration. They tend to look at class rank to see how students are likely to measure up with their peers. The absence of a class rank forces colleges to put more weight on standardized test scores.

Some U.S. states guarantee that students who achieve a high enough class rank at their high school will be admitted into a state university.

Doing away with rankings also eliminates a reality check for students and schools on how classmates compare.

Competition is good

Students compete in sports and they get ranked. What is wrong with ranking students academically for whom academic performance should be more important than sports?

Why are some students and parents afraid of competition?

Competition is a part of life. Life is competitive. Competition is good because it makes people do better and do their best.

Competition can be a very positive motivating force. Everyone benefits from the competition when all strive for the best or the first. Students become more self-motivated and more self-reliant and raise the bar of academic achievement for their peers.

Real life is not like some elementary school events, in which everyone is a winner, everyone receives an award for participating or showing up, so their feelings and self-esteem are not bruised. The whole “everyone gets a trophy” mentality is creating an attitude of entitlement.

Children will be better prepared for life by experiencing a competitive academic environment resulting in class ranking.

Aren’t high school students old enough to handle a little competition? They are supposed to be mature enough to realize that not everyone has the same skills and talents. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. There are winners and losers. Not everyone in real life is a winner, regardless of how strong one’s self-esteem is. One can be a winner in one area and not in another area.

Winning and losing is a fact of life. When we fail to acknowledge and recognize winners, everyone stands to lose.

If students in their teens can’t handle some competitive at high schools, how will they learn to handle the significantly more competitive environments of elite colleges and grad schools in their twenties, later in their professional life?

Taking class ranking out of high school is just another way that society is making everything “equal” and making everyone feel good about themselves. It is another example of dumbing of America.  It teaches kids nothing in the long run.

Yes, men are created equal which just means each is of equal value to the creator, not that they have equal skills and abilities.

If we are going to end academic competition, then should we use the same logic to end sports competitions?

Will we stop ranking football teams and football players? Will we stop taking score at sports events? Will we stop ranking colleges and universities? Will we stop rating cities, hotels, restaurants, cars, etc.?  Will we stop rewarding people for working harder and being better than everyone else, because then everyone else will feel bad?

In the United States, more than in any other countries, students’ athletic abilities are often overvalued while their academic excellence is often undervalued. If a mediocre student is applauded for his athletic ability, why shouldn’t a student with academic excellence be recognized for his accomplishments?

Students who work hard and achieve top ranking should be recognized and honored, just like sports players are recognized and honored.

What some critics say 

Some who don’t like class rank say that the class rank system promotes unhealthy competition, because the top students must fight with their fellow classmates just to make the top 10 percent of the class. This could happen, but not necessary.

My son is friends with several who rank higher than he is. They enjoy working on projects together and chat on Skype after school.

Students need to learn to work together to truly become successful. The key is to compete and co-operate.

The solution is not getting rid of ranking. Doing so can kill competition and motivation.

Critics also say that class rank can lead to anxiety and academic pressure and cause stress.

People need to know and understand their passion, abilities, strengths and limits. Not everyone is good at sport or music just like not everyone can be in the top ten of the class.

We will have anxiety and stress if we are forced to do things we are not naturally good at.

Having some pressure and stress in life is not all bad. It’s also part of life. Do we eliminate a sport game because of pressure and stress? No.

Life is not just about having fun and having it easy. Some short term pain is necessary in order to have long term gain.

Some think that the class rank is not fair. They complain and whine about it.

I will say life is not fair, embrace competition and work harder.

As parents, let’s face it. Our child cannot be the best and the first at everything.

Class rank is only one kind of measures for student’s achievements. It’s not the only ticket to college.

Personal stories

My favorite high school teacher in China was someone who ranked students every week based on their test results. After every test, he wrote the names of the top students on a small blackboard and had it on the wall until the next test. In addition, he often rewarded students with pens, books and other prizes which were very valuable at that time.

Students in his class were highly motivated and worked hard. Many went on to colleges. Every year, this teacher had the best graduating class and the highest success rate in college entrance exams in the whole school and city. His reputation was known beyond the school.

For my son, a 9th grader and a freshman at high school, knowing his class ranking for the first time has made him work harder for school than ever.

When the first trimester report card came home, he was not in the top ten in his class. He didn’t do well in one class because he wasn’t clear about the expectations. But he wanted to be in the top ten, so he worked harder and was more responsible with his school work in the second trimester. As the result, he improved his grades and ended up in the top ten on the second report card.

My son’s favorite middle school teacher was the math teacher Mr. Rasmussen. I heard that Mr. Rasmussen would call out the students’ names when distributing test results to recognize students who had received the perfect scores. Mr. Rasmussen was probably the only teacher he had who did that. The recognition motivated him to do his best.

Who doesn’t enjoy some acknowledgement and recognition for his achievement and success?

A few years ago, when my son was little, he sold golf balls in the backyard. One day he saw a neighbor kid selling golf balls in the same location. He was so excited and ran out to set up his stand. I had never seen him so excited in selling golf balls.

A little bit later, that child’s parent came knocking on our door. She came to tell me that they were not happy that my son competed with her child selling golf balls at the same time in the same location. I was dumbfounded because I thought it was fun for the kids.

We made the promise at their request not to sell golf balls at the same time. Unfortunately, my son lost some motivation and interest after what happened.

What do you think?

I would love to hear your opinion on this issue. Whether you want to keep or abolish class rank, please share your thoughts and let’s have a discussion.